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Fran?ois Fillon’s ‘Chinese water torture’

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PARIS — It turned out a speech originally intended as the launch pad for his presidential campaign. Instead, Francois Fillon found himself defending his and his wife’s reputation against accusations of wrongdoing.

After four occasions of bruising?allegations they used?public funds to pay significant salaries to his British wife?Penelope for allegedly fictitious jobs, Fillon on Sunday told onlookers of?12,000 followers while in the northeast of Paris which he will not “intimidated” by attacks which have been directed at “breaking” him.

But even some of his aides conceded Sunday night that it will?take more than a big rally to position the campaign back on track as Republicains that worry he might really need to remove with the race.

The scandal that this French media have dubbed “Penelope-gate” has recently hit Fillon?if opinion polls are to be believed. Based on a survey published in Le Figaro, he previously barely beat former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron to second placed in the main round with the election scheduled for April 23,?polling at 22 percent to Macron’s 21 percent.

Marine Le Pen, a-# 1 of the far-right National Front, currently leads the polls at 25 %. Benoit Hamon, who won the Socialist Party primary against former Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday night, will come in fourth with 15 percent of the vote, reflecting the momentum his campaign?has acquired in the past couple of weeks.

In your second round, Macron would beat Le Pen, 65 percent to 35 percent more convincingly than Fillon would at 60 % to Forty percent, in accordance with polls. Much more disturbing for Les Republicains, Macron would resoundingly beat Fillon, 58 percent to 42 percent if both men have the ability to keep Le Pen from the runoff?on?May 7.

“Can you imagine?the suitable absent with the first round? Who takes the prize? Le Pen” — senior Fillon aide

Fillon said the other day on French TV he would withdraw from the presidential election?if they’re?put under formal investigation by judicial authorities. At this point, the French financial prosecutor merely has launched a short probe in to the allegations. Even so the fear while in the Fillon campaign is always that the current judicial probe can take a few weeks, with periodic leaks and regular reminders that would cost you “Chinese water torture,” while in the words of a on the?aides.

    Les Republicains lack a credible alternative leader that might be capable of lead its presidential bid.?The?runner-up primarily, Alain Juppe, has already declined a run as the “spare wheel” if his former adversary pulls out. The party wouldn’t adequate to arrange the right primary before the election’s registration deadline March 22. As well as its statutes are puzzled by who contain the authority to select an applicant without an election.

    As for former President Nicolas Sarkozy, his bad showing inside the November primary election and?the hostility it revealed among conservative voters, would preclude him from running regardless of whether he decided, once?again, to absolve?his promised?”retirement” from politics.

    If Fillon pulls out after the official deadline?and Les Republicains can’t then field a candidate, Le Pen would take advantage of the void about the right. This is why his statement to get outside in case of investigation was deemed “a mistake” by one Republicain official who said it “lets a threat hang on the campaign.”

    “Can you would imagine?the correct absent from your first round? Who takes the prize? Le Pen,” said a senior aide to Fillon.

    The faithful kept their faith

    In his speech Sunday, peppered with references to 1960s Gaullism and lures revive France’s prestige abroad, Fillon?struck each of the traditional right-wing notes that attracted hardcore conservative voters in the primary.

    “I’m being identified as the representative of traditional France. But someone without roots is walking in an airplane,” he stated.

    But young drivers . experimented with?reassure that surrounding Les Republicains which have concerned with a platform deemed too?far right?to entice the centrist voters although need to convince during the general election.

    Gone was the proposal to partly privatize the French heath care system, which Fillon had already pulled from his site in December after it came under heavy attack from the two left as well as the far-right National Front.

    Gone also was the relationship with shrinking public sector ranks by 500,000 over incomes, which perhaps the head in the French industrialist lobby MEDEF had criticized as too harsh.

    Instead, Fillon declared that he held public servants in high esteem, regardless if he still needs to shrink a state. “I am the enemy of bureaucracy — not the enemy of public servants,” he explained.

    Senior citizens far outnumbered students at Fillon’s rally and few among the faithful seemed moved through the allegations of wrongdoing.

    “This is trustworthy man, and they attack him because would like to change things,” said Emilie Chanteloup, 62, who’d originated from Normandy to wait the rally.

    However, while the bunch of sympathizers offered enthusiastic applause, some Fillon?aides admitted it would take greater than fiery rhetoric to prevent the troubles under control.

    Money troubles

    Fillon’s campaign plans were disrupted when?the satirical weekly Canard Enchaine revealed?Wednesday that this conservative candidate?had employed his wife like a parliamentary aide, to the tune of 500,000 euros over eight years. Hiring spouses or relatives isn’t illegal inside the French political system if your jobs are real

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    McConnell dances on Bannon's grave

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    \”Taking that counter-argument out of your game here clears the highway for just a very clear-eyed political technique of the season,\” said Scott Jennings, a Republican political strategist and former McConnell aide. \”Bannon will have dramatically complicated that.\”

    Jennings and various McConnell allies the party can consentrate on selling a still-unpopular tax law for the American public and picking up Senate seats in states President Donald Trump won in 2016. Towards the extent Bannon is blasting McConnell with his fantastic cohorts as corporate globalist sellouts, he\’ll be doing so as a much-diminished political force.

    The elation inside McConnell\’s camp weren\’t able to you have to be apparent. When McConnell assembled his leadership team on Wednesday for a new-year huddle, he focused first not on a looming government shutdown as well as recently-passed government tax bill – he celebrated Bannon\’s self-destruction.

    The president had released your firm stand out hours earlier disavowing Bannon, stating his former aide had "not only lost his job, he lost his mind" while he was fired. McConnell gleefully told his colleagues they had spoken together with the president moments earlier and told him: \”I couldn\’t have stated it better myself.\”

    But it\’s unclear how much of an aspect Bannon would\’ve gone through the nation\’s most acceptable Senate races, anyway. Several Republican vs. Republican battles will rage on without him.

    In just four months, a pair of Indiana GOP congressmen will settle their months-long clash inside a May 8 primary. A newly wide-open Republican field inside Ohio Senate race will be dependant in a few hours. Along with fierce primaries loom in Wisconsin, Nevada, West Virginia and elsewhere.

    Bannon\’s fall may deprive primary challengers of some oxygen and money. Nevertheless it doesn\’t change a main environment during which any tie to Washington or McConnell is usually poisonous.

    \”The Republican Congress has replaced Obama because bogeyman for conservative GOP primary voters," Senate Leadership Fund President Steven Law wrote after Moore beat then-Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama\’s Republican primary.

    Still, Josh Holmes, a highly regarded McConnell political lieutenant who\’s spent most of the autumn and winter on the warpath against Bannon, said the president\’s decision to toss Bannon aside will freshly unity the party\’s efforts.

    \”It repairs a divide that existed only owing to Steve Bannon,\” he was quoted saying. \”The party has largely been united – House, Senate, administration – and features been executing quite well since Bannon\’s departure from your White House. One exception fot it has long been Bannon\’s activities on the outside of.\”

    A Bannon spokesman didn\’t reply to a request comment.

    The majority leader will expend the weekend with the president and Republican congressional leaders at Camp David. He\’ll almost certainly stress for the group value of party unity, an idea inimical to Bannon\’s project to remake the GOP in their populist-nationalist image.

    McConnell, depending on two sources knowledgeable about his plans, will lie down his look at just what it normally takes for Republicans to reach the 2011 treacherous political atmosphere. Namely, a relentless look at selling tax reform because engine behind the booming economy.

    The hope of McConnell along with his allies at Senate Leadership Fund along with the National Republican Senatorial Committee is that often tax reform, along with the confirmation of conservative judges, can continue a restive GOP base from tossing two incumbents facing strong primary challenges. In Nevada, Sen. Dean Heller began airing ads in November. In Mississippi, Sen. Roger Wicker started airing spots right in front of Christmas. Both men face actual or expected Republican challengers.

    \”It\’s been a large year in Washington,\” Wicker says in the ad, since he sits with his wife before a Christmas tree. \”We\’ve delivered pro-growth tax cuts, confirmed conservative judges – probably the most throughout history – and slashed billions in job-killing regulations.\”

    Heller expires against businessman and perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who have won multiple GOP House primaries this decade. Wicker is likely to face state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who narrowly lost to Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014. Mainstream Republicans take both challengers seriously, and Bannon was set to back both Tarkanian and McDaniel.

    They\’ll now sure enough have to carry out without Bannon\’s expansive media presence and whatever funding he would\’ve gotten to generate from donors.

    But simply how much Bannon mattered in both races isn\’t certain. As they was hoping to build a political group, its funding sources and staffing were in the air. While Bannon had wants to run primary opponents against every GOP senator up for reelection except Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the Breitbart chief was can not recruit challengers practically in most states.

    And as the limited public polling available shows Tarkanian giving Heller a race, Wicker provides a substantial lead over McDaniel.

    Former state Sen. Kelli Ward, a Bannon-backed candidate in Arizona, did play a role in chasing Sen. Jeff Flake into retirement. But she will be likely going to face establishment-backed Rep. Martha McSally from a GOP primary, and downplayed Bannon\’s role in their own campaign inside a statement.

    "Steve Bannon is of countless high-profile endorsements Dr. Ward has," Ward spokesman Zachery Henry said soon. "The daily parlor intrigue in Washington, D.C., does not even attempt to strengthen the lives from the hardworking people today of the country."

    But other GOP primaries have had little related to Bannon. In Indiana, Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, along with businessman Mike Braun, were attacking another since the summer. Bannon hadn\’t endorsed any candidate. In Ohio, where Republican Rep. Jim Renacci might enter into the Senate race following Treasurer Josh Mandel\’s decision Friday to decrease out, Bannon never endorsed Mandel or self-funding businessman Mike Gibbons.

    In Wisconsin, Bannon had backed businessman and veteran Kevin Nicholson over state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who may be beloved by grass-roots Republicans within the state. But Nicholson\’s primary backers are Club for Growth and Illinois businessman Richard Uihlein, with the exceptional cash supply won\’t suffer as a consequence of Bannon\’s downfall.

    A similar story is unfolding in Tennessee. While Bannon was supporting Rep. Marsha Blackburn, her backing from Club for Growth means she isn\’t dependent upon him for support. She raised $2 million from the fourth quarter, her campaign said today, compared ith former Rep. Stephen Fincher\’s $1.45 million.

    The only guaranteed loser from Bannon\’s blowup is Bannon himself.

    \”Steve Bannon\’s Fifteen minutes ought to be a case study as to what goes wrong with people once they put themselves through the causes they\’re saying to dedicate yourself to,\” Holmes said.

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    Cummings hospitalized as wife suspends campaign for governor

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    Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is currently hospitalized after a task to drain an infection, three sources told POLITICO, the most up-to-date setback inside of a string of medical issues which have plagued the longtime lawmaker since a year ago.

    Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a Democratic policy consultant, suspended her gubernatorial bid in Maryland on Friday, shortly before news surfaced that her husband is at the hospital.

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    Soon after POLITICO first reported his hospitalization, Cummings\’ office released an argument saying his health problems were associated with a bacterial infection in the knee.

    "Doctors drained the infection in the minor procedure today. He\’s resting comfortably and expects the full recovery," his office said Friday.

    Cummings was hospitalized and sidelined for a lot of months not too long ago due to heart issues.

    In a press release announcing wants to suspend her campaign, Rockeymoore Cummings cited personal issues but wouldn\’t elaborate.

    \”Making an attractive and direct contribution towards state of Maryland also to our nation was my greatest motivating factor for getting into the public arena. Unfortunately, caused by personal considerations, We\’re suspending my bid for governor of Maryland,\” she said within an email to supporters.

    Multiple sources said Rockeymoore Cummings\’ decision to leave out the race was linked to her husband\’s health concerns. Democratic aides said Cummings was moving slowly ahead of the Christmas break.

    Cummings, 66, was hospitalized last May after what his office described back then as a \”minimally invasive\” heart valve replacement. He was scheduled to revisit work after that but ended up missing many months a result of a post-op infection that kept him clear of Capitol Hill until September.

    Upon his return, Cummings was noticeably slimmer and said he\’d have got to sustain a stricter diet and acquire more sleep. But he brushed aside any notion that he or she wasn\’t competent to fully perform his job.

    Cummings has represented his hometown Baltimore inside your home since 1996. He or she is well-liked and revered among all parties, even while he\’s sparred with Republicans over contentious issues for the reason that top Democrat over the House Oversight Committee.

    Rockeymoore Cummings was one among nine Democrats vying to unseat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. She was endorsed by EMILY\’s List after she jumped within the race in October. But Rep. Cummings was the gubernatorial candidate\’s biggest single surrogate both publicly plus regards to fundraising. The congressman was listed as being a headliner a great upcoming fundraiser for Rockeymoore Cummings on Sunday.

    Despite the support with the prominent Democratic congressman, Rockeymoore Cummings wasn\’t the irrefutable front-runner however. At the beginning of polling of your Democratic primary, she trailed candidates including former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Prince George\’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

    Despite a considerable primary as well as general Democratic lean of Maryland, Democrats aren\’t as optimistic about unseating Hogan as they are about beating incumbent Republicans in states like Illinois, Boise state broncos, or Maine. That\’s largely because Hogan is popular: An October poll by Morning Consult listed him for the reason that governor while using the second-highest approval near your vicinity, behind only Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

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    GOP senators recommend FBI probe of Trump 'dossier' author Steele

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    Two Republican senators have recommended which the FBI pursue a criminal investigation against Christopher Steele – this writer of the disputed Trump-Russia dossier – for the purpose they described as evidence that they made false statements to federal investigators.

    "I cannot take lightly generating a referral for criminal investigation. But, because would with any credible proof a criminal offense unearthed while in our investigations, I\’m obliged to secure that information along on the Justice Department for appropriate review,\” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in the joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

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    The senators did not provide public evidence to substantiate their request, nevertheless they noted they sent a "classified memorandum" to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray containing the foundation within their request.

    The request isn\’t going to measure the validity of your Steele dossier, nor can it constitute a criminal allegation. "The referral is made for further investigation only," according to the statement.

    Even so, Democrats quickly responded in anger.

    "I wasn\’t consulted concerning this referral nor were all of my Democratic colleagues," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the highest Democrat on Grassley\’s committee. "I do believe this referral is unfortunate since it\’s clearly another effort to deflect attention from what medicine committee\’s main concern: determining whether there is collusion regarding the Trump campaign and Russia to steer the election and whether there were subsequent obstruction of justice."

    One congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the choice by Grassley and Graham to mention Steele towards Justice Department raises an obvious anomaly.

    "These are speaking about DOJ a justice based upon documents DOJ gave them and according to witness testimony into the DOJ," the aide said.

    Steele, an old British intelligence officer, was commissioned in 2016 by research firm Fusion GPS to research President Donald Trump\’s ties to Russia. The dossier he produced, which Trump has derided as fiction, describes a lot of illicit connections between Trump, his business and also the Kremlin.

    Republicans have persistently questioned how the FBI handled the dossier after receiving it in the 2016 campaign, including whether or not it formed the foundation of your surveillance warrant against a Trump campaign associate and whether the FBI independently verified any kind of Steele\’s information.

    Republicans in addition sounded the alarm over reports that Fusion was paid by the Clinton campaign for Steele\’s research, suggesting that Steele\’s work was the merchandise of your partisan smear effort.

    The two senators claim in their letter to obtain seen proof "potential violations" by Steele on the law prohibiting false statements to government officials. These potential violations, they assert, occurred "regarding his distribution of information contained in the dossier."

    Their letter was copied to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the highest Democrat to the Judiciary Committee, and Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the most notable lawmakers for the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top part lawmakers on the House Intelligence ommittee.

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